Canadian Plastics

Panel paranoia

In a famous scene from the 1954 movie "The Caine Muntiny", Humphrey Bogart's character Captain Queeg describes four ways to do anything: "The right way, the wrong way, the Navy's way and my way", and ...

September 1, 2010   By Jim Anderton, Technical Editor



In a famous scene from the 1954 movie “The Caine Muntiny”, Humphrey Bogart’s character Captain Queeg describes four ways to do anything: “The right way, the wrong way, the Navy’s way and my way”, and then announces that everybody aboard had better do it his way.

On the hopefully less dramatic setting of the production floor, Bogie’s theory still holds true. Maintenance personnel often develop ideas that sometimes don’t seem important or relevant to others. Here’s one of mine: Electrical panels and distribution boxes. Every plant has them, and most have been spliced, patched and modified until a schematic is a necessity if you’re tackling a problem any distance from the source or load. Trouble is, that schematic is usually in an engineer’s filing cabinet, and I can’t find it or him…and the downtime is piling up.

What to do? Here are some tips that I’ve learned can save time and money.

1. MAKE PLANT SCHEMATICS ENGINEERING DRAWINGS

The electrical crew gave you a diagram, but putting it into your formal blueprint system means there’s at least a chance that it’ll be revised and changes noted formally. This will save you time and troubleshooting effort, and also put you in a stronger position with your fire marshal and insurance carrier.

2. POST THE SCHEMATIC UNDER GLASS NEAR THE MAIN DISTRIBUTION PANEL

This might seem picky, but the ability to use a grease pencil on a drawing that’s next to the actual panel helps visualize the system quickly and easily. Extra tip: Don’t use color, as — eventually — someone is bound to photocopy the drawing and the lighter colors won’t show, leading to confusion and mistakes.

3. SEGREGATE CONTROL CURRENTS FROM POWER CIRCUITS

Everyone loves conduit, but in a facility with modern wiring you don’t need NASA-grade protection in anything but a washdown environment. If your techs get used to working on 24VDC circuits inside 110/220 VAC junction boxes and panels, eventually someone is going to stick something sharp and metallic into a nasty AC box. Plastic is cheap and more than adequate for control/monitoring circuits; bright colors are even better.

4. KEEP SAFETY GEAR HANDY

Wall-mount a resin box with a latching removable lid next to the main panel and add OSHA gloves, a fuse puller and face shield. Next to the fire extinguisher is a good place. This greatly increases the chance that the gear will be used, and the fire bottle noticed too. Don’t use a box with a flip top or hinged lid, or it’ll collect everything from loose tools to empty Coke cans.

5. USE YOUR TEMPERATURE GUN

Non-contact infrared temperature guns are now cheap as chips, and they’re great around electrical panels. The trick is to scan breakers and major junction boxes under normal operating conditions and note the temperatures. Do you have a mysterious breaker trip that seems to happen for no reason? It might be running hot, just waiting for that extra circuit load to put it over the edge. I often carry my gun in my pocket, and I’m not unusual — in that way, at least!

I could go on, but you get the idea: Everyone is busy in a typical plant environment, and the temptation to “fly by the seat of your pants” is compelling. If the right tools for safety and efficiency are readily at hand, your people will use them, especially if it’s a crisis. In my experience, it usually is…


Print this page

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*